In the summer of 2007, dance duo Groove Armada sent shockwaves through the music production industry by opting out of a deal with a traditional record label. In April 2008, the duo, who have become a household name thanks in part to the use of their music in commercials, instead signed-up with Bacardi making them the first mainstream group to turn to a major brand for investment. Considering the majority of digital music is downloaded for free, through the expansive networks of user to user file shares – it is not difficult to imagine that as record companies’ profits suffer amid the current economic squeeze, the emerging trend of band-brand partnerships will continue to develop.
The one-year deal has sparked a mixed reaction from fans. Although the majority are in support of the partnership and feel the pair is a good brand fit, some have expressed surprise that the group would choose to associate so freely with such a major commercial corporation. But speaking to the BBC, the band’s Andy Cato defended the move. “You’ve always needed big business to get your music out there,” he explained. “That help used to be major record labels, now it’s all kinds of different things. If you say one corporate pound is any more or less corporate than another, then you’re wrong,” he added. “What is a record label if it’s not a commercial brand?” So how long will it take for other global brands to become the major investing foundation of the music industry? In some ways the ball has already started rolling.
In 2005, Toyota launched its own hip-hop record label Scion, while two years later coffee giant Starbucks unveiled the Hear Music label that produced the debut album of all-female group Antigone Rising. But while these are still relatively small endeavours in terms of music production there is clearly further scope for brands to seize the opportunities to work with the industry. These possibilities hail an exciting time for music production. The sound of the brand is becoming an increasingly important part of its promotion, a fact demonstrated by the success of the strategic use of music in commercials such as M&S and Sky HD But if brands want to make a success of their partnership with an artist or band they must have a good understanding of what their music represents and how their talent developed.
Throwing money at a project is far from enough, with brands instead needing to spend time working hard with those who have managed to get the best out of the musicians in the past. Brands must ensure they are seen by fans as a facilitators, helping groups and singers achieve things which are just not possible with a traditional record label. By working hard at aligning themselves with an artist, a brand can help ensure that the confidence of both the fan base and consumers of their products is in no way compromised. To form an alliance of this sort and find a “brand fit” between a sound and a product is no random act. It is a careful balance between the rigours of science and the art of creativity which can be used to make certain that music and brand complement each other and thus trigger success for both parties.
To start to unravel any of these complicated issues we only need return to the original reason why anyone would choose a brand rather than a record label to promote them. Fans are no longer listening to a good piece of music and heading out to the shops to buy it – they are instead logging onto the internet and downloading it for free. If fans are not prepared to pay, then, just like any other business, music production will become harder to maintain and artists will be forced to look elsewhere for support and sponsorship.
However the future of the music industry evolves, it certainly looks to be an exciting one –meanwhile, it’s important to recognise that the sound of the brand is seldom about sponsoring a pop star or rock group or even an promotional event. Corporations are turning to support from “sound of the brand” consultants, like soundlounge, to provide them with a complete and integrated understanding into how their musical investments can be maximised by resonating honestly with the fan and the consumer
Find out more about music in commercials and discover the sound of the brand at soundlounge.co.uk